The Work of Greg Clark and Jimmie Frise

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Skixcursion

The young woman slid over our way. “Aren’t you slaloming?” she asked, and her voice was the husky kind.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 28, 1939.

“How’d you like to go,” asked Jimmie Frise, “on one of these ski excursions they’re running?1

“Heh, heh, heh,” I replied.

“They’re no end of fun,” declared Jim. “Whole trainloads of merry skiers, heading for the snow.”

“If the snow won’t come to the skiers,” I said, “the skiers go to the snow.”

“Why not?” demanded Jim. “They are running ski trains out from Boston, New York, Chicago, all over the country. When there are thousands of city-penned people just dying to romp in the snow; and hills full of snow only 50 miles away, what’s the answer?”

“Read a book,” I replied. “Light the grate fire, pull up a deep chair and snuggle down to a good book.”

“Ten years ago, that wouldn’t have been your answer,” sneered Jim.

“Oh, yes, it would,” I retorted. “Ten years ago, I preferred a deep chair to a snowbank even more than I do now. I have always maintained that winter was the season of hibernation. Nature does not intend us to go out romping in the snow. Why does she put the bear to sleep in his den, all winter; and the groundhog and all the rest of them? Why does she pack off all the birds to the south? Because the winter is fit for neither man nor beast. Because winter is no time for anybody or anything to be out. And we should take a tip from nature and stay in our dens as much as possible during the winter.”

“It’s just your age,” said Jim. “If a bear had heavy woollen underwear and a leather coat and fur-lined boots, he wouldn’t den up for the winter.”

“Physical comfort is the first law of happiness,” I decreed. “A man can have all other troubles, but if he is physically comfortable, dry, warm and at ease, he can withstand poverty, grief, fear, everything. What makes poverty unbearable is that it is so uncomfortable.”

“If you were younger,” prodded Jim, “you wouldn’t be so stuck on comfort. Young people get an actual thrill out of discomfort.”

“They can have it,” I assured him.

“One of the lovely things about youth,” went on Jim, “is that it has the stamina and resistance to deliberately submit itself to discomfort, in order to enjoy comfort all the more. They go out and ski in the cold and bitter weather, under a bleak sun, knowing that presently, after so many hours, they will be going back to a nice warm fireside. And oh, how much lovelier a fireside is, when it is contrasted with exposure and chilblains2.”

“I admit that,” I admitted.

“You take an aging and lazy person like yourself,” said Jim, “who never sticks his nose out of doors in winter unless he has to: think of how little real enjoyment he must get out of a fine log fire.”

“What do you mean,” I asked, “by aging and lazy? Whom are you referring to?”

“You,” said Jim.

Glands Must Be Applauded

“Jim,” I informed him, “I resent that. I am not aging. I am younger than you. I am in the very prime of my life.”

“You are in,” said Jim, “what are called the middle 40’s. That means you’re past 45,”

“At that age,” I declared, “a man is just ripe. Just seasoned. Just perfect.”

“Unless, of course,” submitted Jim, “he folds up and quits. Unless he abandons all forms of action in favor of comfort and rest.”

“No man is more active than I am in the spring, summer and fall,” I advised. “Fishing and shooting. But winter just doesn’t appeal to me.”

“It’s the thin end of the wedge,” said Jim. “It’s the beginning of the end. You surrender to comfort and inaction in winter a couple of years more, and then you’ll reach the stage where you put off the trout fishing until the end of May, rather than the wet and cold beginning of May. Then you’ll find it a little easier to sit on the cottage veranda during the hot weather than get out and row a boat…”

Jim could tell by my expression that he was hitting pretty close to the mark. As a matter of fact, I have been postponing the trout season a couple of weeks, and I did sit on the cottage veranda quite a bit last summer. In fact, I lay on a couch on the veranda. In short, I slept a good many afternoons…

“It’s insidious,” explained Jim. “There is no year of a man’s life at which you can say he is starting to grow old. There is no dividing line. You see lots of men who are old at 30. They’ve given in. They have surrendered to a routine of life that gives them the maximum of comfort. Poor, solemn, habited men, who go through life according to a dreadful routine. The streets are full of them, solemn young men, old at 30. But thank heavens you see other men who are not old at 70, who take life on the wing, who never submit to routine, who find zest and pleasure in every hour of every day, who never go to bed at the same hour, never do the same things twice, are full of zip and ginger and answer every beckoning call of life.”

“It’s their glands,” I suggested. “Healthy glands.”

“Glands have to be encouraged,” cried Jim. “But if you just ignore a gland, if you act as if it wasn’t there, what would you do if you were a gland? Why, you’d go to sleep too. You’d relax and pretty soon you would be dormant. Glands have to be encouraged and applauded. You have to take them for a ride every now and then. You have to go out in the cold and snow and test your glands, see how they can support you, for it isn’t your lungs and heart alone that keep you going under strain, but all the little glands strung through your system like the lights on a Christmas tree, the pituitary, the endocrines, they are the little batteries and generators distributed all through your system, and they are the power plant of all your energy.”

“I’ve tested mine,” I submitted. “They’re working. But they don’t crave to be chilled and exhausted.”

“No gland,” stated Jim, “gets any satisfaction out of lying dormant. The only thing at gland can do is work. One of these winters, my boy, you are going to hug a warm hearthstone once too often, and your glands are going to sleep and you won’t be able to wake them. up. When spring comes, they’ll be drowsy. That will be the end.”

Life Is Like Fire

“Drowsy, eh?” I muttered, remembering last summer on the cottage veranda.

“Life is like fire,” concluded Jim. “You’ve got to keep it stoked.”

“What is this excursion you were talking about?” I inquired.

“There is one every week-end,” said Jim, eagerly. “The train runs wherever the snow is. Sometimes the ski train goes up Owen Sound way or over the Caledon hills. Another time, it may go out Peterboro way. All you do is buy your ticket for the ski train, which leaves at 8 a.m. and you get aboard, and go where it goes. It has diners on it, for those who don’t carry their lunches. It waits on a siding all day, amidst the snow, and at dark. it leaves for home again, after suitable tootings of the whistle to warn all the passengers of the time.”

“My, that sounds good,” I agreed. “Have they a parlor car on too, in case a fellow gets tired of skiing and just wants to sit in a parlor car seat and read a book or look out the window?”

“I suppose that could be arranged,” said Jim.

But it was not arranged. For when, in the bitter week-end morning we arrived at the station and got aboard the ski train along with a hastening throng of other gaily clad ski-bearers, there was no parlor car, nor was there any diner. There were just half a dozen hissing and steaming day coaches of the plainest and most old-fashioned degree, best suited to carrying a crowd of noisy and joyous people, with their skis, poles, haversacks, massive boots, fogging cigarettes and an overwhelming air of hilarity.

Everybody handed up their skis and poles to the baggage car boys as they passed along the platform. Everybody swarmed into the steaming coaches, fighting past other skiers who were trying to keep places for belated friends, for whom they peered and watched. from the car doors.

There were very few young people and no elderly people. The entire passenger list seemed to consist of people at that age which is most oppressive both to the young and the elderly – 28 to 35. People of this age are curiously depressing. They have the energy of youth plus the wisdom and authority of years. They are doubly fortified. They are noisy, because they are young. But you can’t frown them down, because they are mature. Unlike 20-year-olds, they have no respect whatever for gentlemen in their middle 40’s. In fact, I think the great majority of skiers are 31 years old.

At the second to last coach in the train, Jim and I managed to slip on board past a crowd of place-guarders, by the simple pretext of joining on to the tail of a throng of five for whom the door was being held. Other place-keepers were all ready to jump into position and crowd the door, but we laughed and pretended to be part of the successful crowd and so got inside the coach and by a little finagling, got a seat together. The young fellow who had the double seat turned back, with his feet on it, succumbed to my stony stare and question. “Is this seat taken?”

He was only about 25. So very grudgingly, he gave up the spare seat, hoisted all his haversacks to another place, and Jim and I turned the back over and disposed ourselves very happily in the hot and smoke-filled coach.

Joyous Trainload

It was, after all, a joyous trainload. Their colored scarves and jackets, their sturdy air, their heavy boots giving them a sort of massive and hearty quality. They made a din. In groups and couples, men and women, they shouted greetings and laughed uproariously, as 30-year-olds laugh. In belated squads, they came and pushed and shoved through the coaches, looking for seats. And by the time the train, with a reluctant grunt, got under way, I was glad I had come.

The day was gray and wintry, with promise of a blizzard, and in no time the windows we so steamed and frosted you could not see out. So we just sat and observed the motley throng catching eyes and pleasant glances every now and then, with people strange and interesting and sometimes beautiful. The ski train giddley-bumped out into the country, northerly taking the Owen Sound line for luck, because they said there were big snow hills north of the Caledon mountains.

“Normally,” I said to Jim, “people of this age do not appeal to me. I avoid them. But they seem a very hearty crowd, after all.”

“What age do you mean?” inquired Jim.

“Thirty-one,” I explained. “They’re all 31.”

“Nonsense,” said Jim, staring round at them.

And after a long time, with several wheezing stops on sidings to let freight trains crawl by, we arrived at a siding in the hills where the train stopped with several merry hoots its whistle, and everybody piled out.

The train did not wait, however, on the siding, but after discharging a great stack of skis, went on its way, the brakeman telling us that it would be back for us at 6 p.m.

In no time at all, the pile of skis was demolished and skiers with their haversacks and poles were threading away in all directions over the fields, up and down a country road that crossed near by, while others proceeded to make little bonfires to prepare tea for lunch, because it was only an hour until noon. Jim and I elected to have a fire out of deference to my devotion to the beautiful element, not to mention our mutual devotion to a pail of good boiled tea. We had cheese and onion sandwiches and leberwurst3 sandwiches, some cold fried bacon and some cakes. And under a gray and muttering sky, we lunched and chose for our direction the way that fewest people had taken. Because Jim and I are what you might call chatty skiers. We just like to slither about.

A Hard Pail of Tea

We slithered across a field to a dark wood. Around the end of the dark wood, we saw a vista of rolling fields and lonely farm houses, and all the fences drifted deep. In no time at all, we had slithered a mile or two, until the dark wood was far behind us, and other dark woods beckoned us on. We rounded a couple of them, and swung northerly to where numerous dark moving dots on the horizon proclaimed some sort of rallying point. And after another pleasant hour of slithering and stopping to observe the view until our perspiration would begin to congeal into ice, we came to the rallying point, which was a long tricky hill, with humps on it, down which 30 or 40 skiers were trying their skill sliding between ski poles set up as markers.

Women and men both were furiously toiling up this hill and abandonedly hissing down it, swerving and swooping amidst the sticks. We joined the watchers at the top, but this was an aspect of skiing neither Jimmie nor I go in for. We haven’t got much swerve in us, to be exact. Up the hill, toiling and flushed and handsome, they came, and after a quick breather, down they would go, like children. Little fires burned. Tea pails bubbled. We decided to light a little fire of our own, for warmth, because just standing watching is cold skiing.

One particularly pretty young woman whom we had observed go down the hill twice with special grace and who now arrived at the top for another go, got her eye on us. She bared lovely advertisement-style teeth at us. She even waved a mitted hand.

“Do we know her, Jim?” I inquired eagerly.

“I don’t recall her,” said Jim.

She slid over our way.

“Aren’t you slaloming?” she asked, and her voice was the husky kind.

“No,” I answered, “we’re just going to light a little fire. We’ve taken a long tour around, so we’re going to rest for a while.”

“Would you mind,” asked the beautiful young woman, she would be about 28, maybe, “putting our tea pail or your fire?”

“Not in the least,” I cried.

“Hurray,” cried the young woman, gliding smartly over to a group of men and women on the crest; “get the sack, Ted, and get our tea pail out. Grandpappy is going to boil our tea pail for us.”

So we boiled their tea pail for them, which was one of the hardest pails of tea I ever boiled in my life, and we gave it to them and they sat at another fire and then we skied back across the rolling fields to the dark wood and around it and so back to the siding where we built another and a bigger fire and sat by it, thinking, until the welcome train came in the darkness and we were two of the first aboard.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Ski or Snow trains were common in the 1930s as a Depression era way of boosting train travel. ↩︎
  2. Chilblains is a condition that causes inflamed swollen patches and blistering on the hands and feet. It’s caused by exposure to damp air that’s cold but not freezing. ↩︎
  3. Leberwurst is another name for liverwurst. ↩︎

One Keg of Rum

He hoisted one keg on his shoulder and fled by a roundabout overland route back to the horse lines where the pipers were waiting.
“It must be gas,” cried the major excitedly. “Don’t stand there, sergeant. Get four men at once and rush him back to the dressing station.”

By Gregory Clark, January 31, 1931.

In every regiment there are wheels within wheels. The colonel, the adjutant and the regimental sergeant-major are supposed to be the three paramount powers in whose hands separately and collectively the fate of thousand men lies.

But it is not so. Underneath the polished exterior of a regiment of infantry, shunting and wheeling and sloping arms so magnificently to the barked commands of one lone voice, there revolve wheels within wheels. Cliques, intrigues, parties grow and flourish. Some are founded on social distinctions, whereby men who were clerks and schoolmasters separate themselves from those of rougher hand. Others divided themselves on the substantial basis of county, so that men of Grey and Bruce held themselves in league against the men of Frontenac or the Maritimes.

But the greatest wheel of all, the mainspring of the works, was a sort of shabby Masonic brotherhood that scorned all pride of place or social position, and leaped the bounds of company or even the greater bounds of period of service, and consisted of those in the regiment who were ultra hard-boiled1. This secret society existed in every battalion of a thousand men. It was officered by a few old-timers, some of whom ranked as corporals or even as sergeants. Its membership was recruited from all companies, and even the signallers and scouts and the transport section contributed their little quota. If you were tough, you needed not to be a year or even six months with the battalion to be made welcome within the sanctuary of this old-soldiers’ lodge.

Most of the mysteries in any regiment’s history can be attributed to this ancient brotherhood. They held no meeting, they possessed no lodge room. Any estaminet2, any dugout, where two or three of them gathered together, was the holies of holies. These knights errant, who pitted their wits against highly technical fortifications of modern military organization were the heirs to the soldiers of fortune who, until a hundred years ago, roved the world in search of payment for their swords. It stands to reason that soldiers of fortune, like singers and dancers and horsemen born to a saddle, should still survive in this age.

I knew that my Corporal Jimmie Post was one of the high-ups within this secret sodality. Post was dusky, with mocking eyes and a scornful mouth, who sang courage back into his platoon with unspeakable songs, and who was to be found in time of disaster not with the little cliques of the brave, but lending his arrogant voice to comfort the weakest sister in the sector. He was aware of his gift of courage. He could throw it, a sort of blanket, around those of us who needed warmth in the cold gulf of fear. And he employed that mantle, and gloried in it.

Brotherhood’s Senior Warden

Court martials went astray, punishments were deflected, plans went amiss in that clean cold region where colonels, adjutants and regimental sergeant-majors live. And Corporal Jimmie Post knew all about it in advance. If any of my men got into serious trouble, Post would tell me, it would be all right. And it would be. Hard-looking strangers from other companies used to come into my trench and talk with Post. And he would be absent occasionally visiting abroad in the regiment in the line. Whenever I would be orderly officer, I would sometimes come on an estaminet being emptied at last post, where the gathering would adjourn with all the earmarks of a lodge meeting coming to an end; and Post was always in these companies. Post was senior warden, if not better, in some indefinable brotherhood of warriors.

Contrasted with Post, Sergeant Buster Parker had a saintly look. He was only a boy, but he had and still has, though one of his legs is gone, a mouthful of the most wholesome flashing teeth I ever saw in a human head. And, like many other men who had that flashing smile, he was gifted with power over his fellows. Despite the fact that he was a boy, Buster Parker was a sergeant and a crackerjack. And it was hard for me to believe now that if Corporal Jimmie Post was senior warden of that secret society in our regiment, Sergeant Buster Parker was worshipful master.

Captain Hal Franks, quartermaster, Lieutenant Seth Norton, transport officer and I as assistant or rear adjutant, were the officers of the horse lines who at that time were dwelling in comfort and security amidst the mud of Neuville St. Vaast while our regiment was up in the reaches beyond Vimy Ridge. Around us were uncamped the rear details, the drivers, the wagons, the orderly room and record clerks, the brass band and the pipe band, the provost sergeant and the artificers3 who are the tailors, horseshoers, carpenters and so forth; all of us the commissariat details of a regiment in the line, who take up their feed each night, and to whom the regiment comes back for rest when relieved.

We were a bomb-proof lot. Mostly old soldiers, retired to his ignominious region by reason of long service or weak backs. And we understood one another perfectly and got along like a lot of creatures in a barnyard.

There was an outbreak of impetigo4 in the regiment. Nasty skin disease that broke out all over, on the legs, body, hands and face. A few of the more valuable non-commissioned officers were sent out of the line to get themselves doctored up. But for most of the troops, it just meant salve and bandages.

Amongst those sent down to the horse-lines, I was delighted to find my old platoon corporal, Post, from whom I had been separated when I was promoted to the eminence and absurdity of assistant adjutant at the rear.

And a day or two later came down Sergeant Buster Parker, with sores like pennies all over his legs.

We spent some pleasant afternoons together in the thin March sunlight of Neuville St. Vaast and Aux Rietz Corners, talking of old-timers and how soft the war had been in my time as compared with now.

There would be, in all, counting these sick, lame and lazy and all the drivers and bandsmen, about a hundred and fifteen dwelling in the huts and tents of our rear camp.

A Memorable Saturday Night

It was a Saturday night that trouble came.

Out in the March night the wind howled and a chill rain lashed our hut. Captain Franks, Norton and I sat about our table, reading and writing and chatting in the desultory fashion known to rear headquarters. The batmen5 had retired. Our bedrooms were laid out. Captain Franks undressed and was preparing to insert himself into his blankets when, on the wild night air, there sounded a snatch of song.

Captain Franks, the senior, nodded to the door and I went and opened and listened. Through the storm and rain and across the mud I could see the lights burned in the scattered huts, and from them came the murmur of many voices.

And in a rift of the wind there came to us the loud skirl of bagpipes.

“Take a look around,” said Captain Franks. “It’s going on for eleven o’clock.”

I pulled on my rubber boots and raincoat and sloshed out into the night. The nearest hut was the guard-room where the provost sergeant lived in charge of whatever prisoners might be awaiting judgment. There were two men in confinement at that time.

A lone candle guttered in the guard hut, and it was empty. I called the sergeant. I called the guard. And no answer came, save the increasing murmur of song and bagpipes from the huts across the muddy field.

I circled round past the horse lines, where the horses drooped beneath their canvas shelters. I called for the piquet and got no answer. I walked around past the artificers’ shanties past the stores, rapping and calling, and got no reply.

And then I headed for the big huts, all glowing in the storm.

From a discreet distance I stood and looked in an open door. There was a sound of revelry. Some were playing cards. Some were lying and singing. Bagpipes skirled, and someone of the band was mournfully blowing a constantly interrupted solo on a trombone. Presently a drum came into action, and the laughter and tumult grew.

Without disturbing the scene, I returned and informed my senior officer that it was apparently somebody’s birthday. Beyond our hut lay the senior n.c.o.’s hut, where dwelt the quartermaster sergeant and transport sergeant and other nabobs in an isolation almost as grand as our own. I went to their door, and they dressed in hasty garments and went to investigate.

They returned in a few minutes, greatly disturbed.

“The whole outfit is tight6,” said they, standing across the table in the candle light. “Tight as owls. They must have got an awful lot of liquor.”

“Tight!” we cried.

“Everybody, the batmen, the clerks, the bandsmen, everybody,” said the quartermaster sergeant. “The provost sergeant is sitting in there singing with his two prisoners. The pipe band is putting on a concert. They are all jammed in there, and by the look of them it would be crazy to interfere. That Corporal Post and Sergeant Buster Parker and a bunch of others from up the line are raising hell.”

“Go and order the lights out,” said Captain Franks. “Get those men back in the guard room. Have everybody go to their quarters.”

The senior n.c.o.’s retired into the storm.

“There will hell to pay over this,” said the senior officer.

And we sat in silence waiting for the n.c.o.’s to return.

After a long wait they returned.

“The only thing you can do,” said they, “is send a riot call up to the battalion in the line and have them come back. Nothing else will stop them now. They’ve got rum. And I think they must have about ten gallons of it.”

“Are we to sit here and let it go on?” demanded the captain.

“I will crime the whole lot,” said the quarter-master sergeant, “but I think it would only aggravate matters it we tried to interfere now, with no men to back us up.”

We agreed with the n.c.o.’s, and we sat far into the night, listening to the rising and falling hubbub from the huts, in which no man came near us. And sometime in the stilly watches we retired, with maudlin snatches of music and yells faintly in our ears.

“Just a Little Party”

The first batman to rouse us was Bertrand, who supervised me. He wore a grin on his face and he looked much the worse of wear.

“I wouldn’t be in a hurry getting up if I was you,” he said to me, as he started laying out my razor kit.

“Why not?”

“The boys,” said Bertrand, “are in kind of bad shape this morning.”

“We thought we heard some noises last night,” said l. “What was up?”

“A little party,” said Bertrand. “Just a little party.”

“Were Post and Parker in it?”

Bertrand laughed, and withdrew apologetically.

We dressed and went forth to look at the wreckage. It was terrible. Many of the men were still sleeping, though buglers sounded the call to rouse and breakfast right into the hut doors. It was Sunday morning, and no parades until eleven o’clock to the church hut down on the Arras-Bethune road a few hundred yards away7.

Everyone ducked as we appeared. A few who still had a little in them brazenly appeared and it became a sort of duel whether we would approach them or they would approach us. Finally, the provost sergeant, looking extremely seedy, could stand the strain no longer, and he marched across the mud, quite unsteadily, and saluting with extreme care, said to us:

“Everything present and correct, shir.”

Saluted again and snapping about unsteadily, marched back to his guard hut.

We retired into our hut for breakfast.

“We can’t crime the whole camp,” said the captain. “We can only seek out the ringleaders. In any event, it is a scandal, and we are going to look very badly, however we handle it.”

The church parade was terrible. It was a travesty. But with a hundred sullen men still bleary from too much rum, it more than useless, it was unfair to attempt to goad them into resistance which would get them and us into deeper trouble.

After the church parade we held an investigation. My share was to sound out Sergeant Parker and Corporal Post, while the others dealt with the transport and quarters personnel.

“We got a little rum,” admitted Sergeant Parker. Post corroborated this statement.

“Where did get it?”

“Nobody knows where it came from,” they said, with deep interest in the subject. “It just appeared, and then everybody was singing.”

And then suddenly I realized I was up against that secret society within the regiment, as far these two were concerned, and I passed it up. At the hut, I found the captain and Norton. They had got nowhere. They had demanded, wheedled, threatened. But it appeared that the rum just came from nowhere, and nobody could remember who had had it first.

But Captain Franks that afternoon ordered Sergeant Parker and Corporal Post to return to the line for duty with their companies.

And he was right.

The Rum Story Spills Over

The story came in the door with Buster Parker the other day, as he tried to sell me a new car. He is a one-legged, two fisted salesman of Fords now, with his flashing smile undimmed.

Something recalled to mind that far-off March night, and in a minute the story was spilling over us with laughter.

“That episode,” said Buster Parker, sitting here fourteen years after in The Star Weekly office, “is remembered by you as one time you really felt the loss of authority. Some day I must write a book about all the times the officers thought they were in command and weren’t. But now I’ll tell you how we got the rum.”

Parker, with his infected legs, arrived out at the horse lines Saturday afternoon and immediately looked up Corporal Jimmie Post re the matter of the most comfortable flop. Post was living with the pipe band, a little group of ten Scotties, some of could not speak English at all; a distinct and isolated little band of superior beings, a sort of Scottish rite within that brotherhood I speak of, who were very particular who so much as sat down in their midst.

So Parker joined Post as a partner in the pipers’ hospitality.

“Now how about a little drink?” asked Parker, after his kit was settled away.

“None to be had,” said Post.

“How about Clarkie?” asked Buster.

“He’s gone mean since he joined the orderly room,” said Post. “I haven’t had a bottle from him for months.”

Then up spoke Brother Fluellen, who was a bugler by rights, but who had achieved by some devious route a position on the staff of the rear headquarters cook kitchen.

“You know this big ration dump down here below Aux Rietz Corners?” asked Fluellen.

“Yes,” said Sergeant Parker, sharply.

“It’s guarded,” said Cook Fluellen, “by a regular guard of crocks. They march sentry on it, one to each side of the dump. It’s about three hundred yards to a side. Well, the last time I was strolling along I had a look into the dump. It has sort of lanes running all through it. In one the lanes I seen some little six-gallon kegs.”

“Yes,” whispered Sergeant Parker, Corporal Post and all the ten pipers.

“So I says to the sentry, I says, what is in them little kegs back there, brother? And he says you would be surprised. I says, is it vinegar? And he says you would be surprised. And by the way he kept halting on his beat and looking back at me, boys, I know there is rum in them six gallon kegs.”

A great silence fell on the pipers’ hut.

Everybody knew the one-gallon rum jars in which the rum came up to the infantry. But a six-gallon keg!

Sergeant Parker rose to his feet. He looked out the door of the hut. Evening was falling and the March wind and rain made all the world a desolation.

“Corporal Post,” said the sergeant, “and Fluellen, you will parade in proper guard mounting order at eight o’clock to-night. You, corporal, will borrow from somebody a great coat with no stripes on it. Have your buttons shined to the nines, your pouches clean, and wear your tin hats.”

A New Guard for the Dump

Thus, at eight o’clock, after all the world of the horse lines had settled down for the night, there formed up discreetly out of the way of officers, a small parade consisting of a sergeant, corporal and a cook. Post and Fluellen, the pictures of soldiery smartness, stood side by side with rifles at the slope and bayonets fixed. Behind them stood Sergeant Buster Parker, dressed for guard mounting.

Down the deserted La Targette road they marched, in the wind and rain, the sergeant’s voice picking them up, hup, hup, until, half way down the road along the dump they overtook the sentry on duty on that side, who and turned outwards.

“Party, halt,” commanded Sergeant Parker, level with the sentry.

“Right turn,” said the sergeant in the business-like tone of the guard.

“What’s this?” asked the surprised sentry on the dump.

“Relief,” said Parker, surily. “All right, Smith,” to Post, “take post. Fall in, sentry.”

And with alacrity, the honest sentry stepped smartly out and fell in beside Fluellen. What a swell night to get relieved!

And without the slightest hesitation, Parker commanded the party to turn, quick march, and down the road in the rain and the darkness they proceeded.

After marching about hundred yards, and nearing the end of the dump, where another sentry might be standing, Parker halted his party.

He reached over and firmly took the rifle from the sentry.

“Boy,” he said, though the man could have been his father, “you are in bad trouble. You can take your choice, but I think you ought to submit to a beating up, because you will never be to tell your officer that you were relieved.”

“What’s this?” stammered the C3 sentry, suddenly filled with an awful fear that all was not well.

Parker chucked the rifle away in the dark and swung on the sentry. There was a moment’s scuffle while the sergeant and Fluellen mussed and muddied up a figure that struggled frantically on the road.

“There,” said the sergeant, “you look as if you had been assaulted. Now run and call your guard.”

And like rabbits, Parker and Fluellen dashed into the hedges, doubled back and forward, and in a moment were lost in the stormy March night. Meanwhile a bedraggled sentry was on the dead tear to his guard room, desperately trying to make up his mind what to tell the sergeant of the guard as to being relieved or assaulted. And whichever way, it would need a lot of explaining.

Post was like a cat in the dark, anyway. When the sentry party left him standing smartly in the rain, he waited until they got out of earshot and then he quietly walked into the dump, found the kegs exactly where Fluellen had described them, hoisted one to his shoulder, retrieved his rifle and fled by a roundabout overland route back to the horse lines, where the pipers were waiting.

Some New, Terrible Epidemic

The question was: Did the keg really contain rum. It did. They first of all poured the rum into two of Fluellen’s big cooking dixies8, then burned the barrel and inside of a few minutes, the free invitation party to all ranks at the regimental horse lines was under way.

“I,” said Parker, “as chief steward of the party, decanted off two full waterbottles of rum before the party started, and these I buried in the earth in a secret place. So that when Captain Franks ordered me to return to my company up the line, as I thought might happen, I was quite content. I went up that night with the ration wagon. I dug up my two bottles, and then clinging to the back of D company limber I fortified myself from time to time during the journey up, so that by the time I met the D company ration party, I needed help, which was gladly given, for a consideration.

“Among those to whom I confided a share of my rum were my fellow sergeants of D company. And only one of them took too much. Because he is probably by now an elder in the kirk9, I will not mention his true name. We will call him Tram. Anyway, Tram by morning was in bad shape. Rum cannot be trifled with like whiskey or brandy. And he trifled with it. So we lay Tram out on the firestep in the sunlight to boil out.

“He was still there, breathing heavily and noisily, when word came that Major Victor Sifton was on his way round the trenches, making his morning inspection. He would be in D company lines any minute.

“And there was Tram lying, unconscious on the fire step. We tried to lift him to hide him in a dugout, but he fought us fiercely and started to shout.

“‘Get a stretcher,’ said I to Tram’s boys. We laid Tram softly on a stretcher. Then I opened my first aid bandage, broke the iodine ampoule and poured the iodine all over the bandage.

“With this swab, I delicately painted Tram all over his face, neck, hands and wrists, so that he was the most terrible pale yellow-brown color you ever saw. It was the most awful case of jaundice imaginable.

“And I just had the job neatly finished and the swab pitched over the parapet, when around the traverse walked Major Sifton.

“”What’s this!’ cried Major Sifton. ‘It’s poor Tram.’ He was rather fond of Tram.

“I told him Tram had just been suddenly took this way.

“‘It must be gas,’ cried the major, excitedly. ‘Don’t stand there, sergeant. Get four men at once and rush him back to the dressing station.’

“So very smartly,” says Buster Parker, “I rustled out four men, and away went Sergeant Tram, breathing noisily and turned a terrible color.

“At the dressing station they just took one look at him and rushed him for the ambulance. I suppose there they just took one look and rushed him back to the clearing station. And there, if he had not recovered consciousness, they probably put a red ticket on him and made a special flying trip to the base with him.

“Anyway, it was three months before Tram came back to D company. Nobody ever found out about the run and iodine. Tram woke up and wondered where the dickens he was. He felt awful bad, and he was able to wash off some of the iodine. His pulse was bad, his heart and lungs were bad. The doctors were sorry he had lost his bad color, but they put him under special observation for a few days, for fear of some new and terrible epidemic.

“Then he was returned, but Tram was so good a soldier, all the divisional schools and reinforcement depots held him for a few weeks as instructor. So that it was nearly three months before Tram got back to us and heard the full story of his holiday.

“So that,” says Buster Parker, “is the story of one keg of rum, and I tell it to you just to show there was a lot of going on all around us in the war that we knew nothing about.”


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Some one who is hard-boiled is tough and does not show much emotion ↩︎
  2. An estaminet is French for a small café, bar, or bistro, especially a shabby one. ↩︎
  3. An artificer is an appointment held by a member of an armed forces service who is skilled at working on electronic, electrical, electro-mechanical and/or mechanical devices. ↩︎
  4. Impetigo is a common and highly contagious skin infection. ↩︎
  5. A batman in the military is a servant to an officer. This was phased out between the wars. ↩︎
  6. Slang for drunk. ↩︎
  7. A church parade in the military is a parade by service personnel for the purposes of attending religious services. This was mandatory at the time. ↩︎
  8. A dixie comes from the Hindi word ‘degchi’ meaning a small pot. It consists of two parts, a large lower pan and a top lid that could be used as a frying pan or a serving platter. ↩︎
  9. This would be an elder in the Scottish (Presbyterian) Church. ↩︎

The Pants Burglar is in Town Again!

January 23, 1932

This is a semi-recurring gag that I just don’t get.

On the Double

A man came suddenly out of a shop door, let out a terrific bellow and started waving furiously at us.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 20, 1945.

“Ah,” sighed Jimmie Frise, “if we only had a little money!”

“What could you buy?” I protested. “You can’t buy shotgun shells. You can’t even buy .22 ammunition. You can’t buy any sporting goods…”

“What I’d like,” confided Jimmie, “would be to be walking down the street and find a wallet with $2,7631 in it.”

“Why that amount?” I asked.

“Oh, I just thought of a number,” sighed Jim. “I’d be walking down the street and there would be the wallet, a fine, tan one.”

“It wouldn’t be in your possession long,” I assured him. “Your conscience would at least make you put a lost-and-found ad in the paper if there weren’t one looking for it already.”

“Yes,” said Jim, “but suppose some unknown man dropped it, some American visiting Toronto overnight, and on arriving back at his hotel, and finding his wallet gone, he would drop dead.”

“Ah,” I considered.

“Nobody would know he had lost it,” went on Jim, “I wouldn’t know who he was. It would just remain an unsolved mystery….”

“He would be sure to leave some letters or other identification papers in a wallet with all that dough in it,” I pointed out.

“Yes, but this is just supposing,” explained Jim. “And the kind of guy I mean would be some mysterious individual, some crook, maybe, over here on crooked business, without any identifications.”

“Okay,” I said decisively, “finding a sum as big as that, you would simply have to notify the police. They’d take charge of it.”

“Aw, heck,” growled Jimmie. “Can’t I even suppose?”

“Go ahead,” I agreed. “But my point is, what would you do with all that. How much was it?”

“Two thousand, nine hundred and thirty- six dollars,” said Jim.

“It’s getting bigger,” I remarked. “Call it, $3,000.

“Nobody ever finds money in round numbers like that,” complained Jim. “Leave it at $2,866.”

“Any amount you like,” I submitted. “In the first place, finding all that money would simply move you up into a higher income bracket. You would feel so good with all that cash you’d spend it. Then, along comes the income tax…”

“I wasn’t figuring,” interposed Jim mildly, “on mentioning it to the tax department. It would be just found money, see?”

“My dear man,” I cried, shocked, “you have to report every cent, whether found or not.”

“In that case,” said Jim, “I don’t want to find any money. But in the first place you said, what could I spend the money on. And in the next breath, you say I feel so good at finding all that cash, I spend it.”

“We’re Sitting Pretty”

“Oh, I suppose a man could spend $2,800 if he had it,” I admitted. “But it wouldn’t he spent on anything useful. There is nothing of any really fundamental value to be bought any more. You can’t buy guns. There isn’t a car to be bought. There isn’t a canoe, let alone boat. About all a man could do with any surplus money he might come by these days is pay off his debts.”

“With wages as high as they are these days,” surmised Jim, “and with all the money there is, in comparison with what little there is to buy, there must be mighty few debts left unpaid.”

“Don’t forget the soldiers,” I reminded him. “There are 500,000 Canadians overseas. They aren’t rolling up any bank account.”

“But they’re going to get from $1,000 to $2,000 each for their rehabilitation grant,” said Jim. “That ought to cover any debts their wives may have run up. No, I’ll bet you, there are fewer debts outstanding in Canada today than at any other time in her history.”

“Think of poor old Britain,” I said. “And poor old France, and Italy and Germany and Russia. Do you think it’s lucky for Canada to be so comfortable?”

“Aw, nothing can happen to Canada,” cheered Jim. “The only enemies we had were Germany and Japan. They could have attacked our shores. But now! We’re sitting pretty. And all our debts paid and bonds in the bank.”

“Which puts us,” I announced, “in the worst position we have ever been in in our history. Because the better off you are, the more enemies you have, the envious friends you have, let alone enemies. I tell you, it’s just about now we Canadians ought to get anxious.”

“Aw, what are you giving us?” cried Jim. “Who would be enemies with dear little old far-off Canada?”

“Far-off?” I snorted. “Boy, we’re in the middle! Square in the middle of the map. We’re half-way between China and Europe. We’re half-way between Russia and the United States. We’re half-way between practically every place in the world. We have been brought up on flat maps, that showed Canada stuck away off in the far left-hand top corner. It’s time we started looking at the round map and see just where this comfortable, debt-paid, hotsy-totsy little country of ours is.”

“You can’t scare me with maps,” said Jim.

“Maps are about all we should be scared of,” I replied. “It is certainly maps the 300,000,000 people of Europe are scared of, right now.”

“Well, who would want any part of Canada?” demanded Jim.

“They’re talking about spheres of influence these days, Jim,” I offered darkly. “Suppose Russia announced that Canada came within her sphere of influence, so as to protect Russia against attack by the United States?”

“What nonsense!” laughed Jim.

“Or better,” I suggested. “Suppose the United States said they had to have a chunk of Canada in order to erect defences against possible aggression from Russia? Or China?”

“You’re dreaming!” scoffed Jimmie.

“When we were small boys, Jim,” I recalled, “do you remember the old scares in the United States about the Yellow Peril? How wild-eyed Americans foretold the day when Japan would fight America, so as to get land in which to expand the Japanese people outside their terribly limited islands? The Yellow Peril was scoffed at by 99 per cent of the American people. Well…?”

“Hm,” said Jim.

“What was a wild-eyed dream, I concluded, “has come true. And all I say is, the more comfortable and secure and happy a people is in that comfort and security, the more they should realize they have enemies. Enemies unseen. Enemies undreamed of.”

“It won’t be in our time,” said Jim.

“No,” I agreed. “And there are a few thousand old Americans long in their graves, who laughed loudest at the Yellow Peril, whose grandsons lie newly buried in the soil of uncharted Pacific islands.”

A More Pleasant Thought

“Well, I wish I had stuck to that wallet I was going to find,” muttered Jim, “with $2,985 in it. That was more pleasant to think about.”

“Okay,” I surrendered. “I’ll play. What would you buy with it, first of all?”

“Well, let’s see?” said Jim, looking up at the ceiling.

Suddenly he let the chair legs down with bump.

“Hey, what time is it?” he exclaimed.

“Ten to five,” I informed him.

“By golly, come on,” he cried. “I’ve got to pick up the steak at the butcher’s for supper. I nearly forgot, and they’ll be closed.”

So we threw our coats on, raced out to Jim’s side drive and piled into the car.

“Plenty of time, plenty of time,” I soothed.

“He closes as near after five, that old Scotchman,” urged Jim, “as the store gets empty. Any time after five, and if there isn’t a customer in the shop, bang goes the door and down comes the blind.

“Good old Davie,” I said, as we backed out.

We reached the butcher shop in good time. There were still three or four customers in the shop but you could see old Davie hustling to get them dealt with, his eye on the door all the time.

Jim got the steak and we exchanged a few cracks with Davie about rabbit hunting and the fact that it is only 14 weeks and two days to the opening of the trout season on May 1.

“In fact,” said Davie, “tae pit it anither way, in 10 weeks, it’ll be only four weeks and twa days…”

At which moment another customer opened the butcher shop door and Davie waved us angrily out.

“Now see what ye’ve done!” he hissed.

When Jim and I walked out to the car, there was another car double-parked outside of us.

“Well, well,” said Jimmie. “What nice manners people have in this district!”

As a matter of fact, at this busy hour of the afternoon, there were three or four cars double-parked along the one block of little shops. Last-minute shoppers.

Jim walked out, opened the door of the car that had us blocked and tooted the horn long and loud.

“Maybe he’ll recognize his own horn,” said Jimmie.

A couple of long minutes went by and nobody appeared.

“What an outrage!” stamped Jimmie angrily. “Imagine anybody having the infernal nerve…”

At which moment a dear old lady, with some knitting in her hands, came toddling out from the sidewalk.

“I hope,” she said, “we are not impeding you.”

“Oh, not at all,” said Jimmie, cheerfully.

“My daughter has just stepped into one of these stores,” said the old lady, getting in the car. “I was just along looking to see what was keeping her but I couldn’t see her.”

“Aw, she’ll be along,” said Jim heartily.

Three cars ahead, a truck started to work itself out from the curb.

“Ma’am,” said Jimmie, to the old lady in the car, “would you mind if I just drove you ahead into that open space the truck is leaving? Could you keep your eye peeled for your daughter when she comes along?”

“Oh, by all means,” said the old lady. “That’s very good of you, I’m sure.”

So Jim got into the driver’s seat, the key being left in. And I got on the running board, just to make sure the old lady would feel easy about strangers.

But as Jim started the car, and just as the truck moved out of the space, another car, with a hustling lady at the wheel, came smartly from behind and, cut in front of Jimmie, stealing the place.

“Well,” laughed Jim, “we’ll just go ahead a bit….”

But ahead, there were no more spaces. In fact, it was a good 75 yards before we found an opening.

“Jim,” I suggested, “go right around the block. This lady’s daughter will never find her away down here. It’s an imposition on the lady to have her get back and watch…”

“Okay, okay,” said Jim, putting on speed.

So we went around the block.

And as we slowly moved around the corner. in front of the shops, not only was there no parking space, but a man coming suddenly out of a shop door let out a terrific bellow and started waving furiously at us.

A Big Mistake

“Any relation of yours?” inquired Jimmie of the old lady.

“I’m sure I never saw the gentleman before,” said she, eyeing him shrewdly as we drove past. He started chasing us.

“What do you suppose is the idea?” demanded Jim.

And he was so busy figuring it out, that lost the one chance of a parking space that offered.

“Round the block again, Jim,” I counselled.

“You didn’t notice your daughter along there?” inquired Jim anxiously.

“I’m afraid I didn’t,” she said.

So we turned the corner and started around the block a second time. And then we heard the furious sound of a car horn right under our tail bumper.

Toot, toot, toot, went the horn furiously. And suddenly we felt a violent bump from its bumper.

“Hey, what’s this!” demanded Jimmie, hotly. And he slowed the car and stopped in the middle of the street.

The door of the car behind burst open and a lady came charging out.

“Mother, mother!” she cried breathlessly. “Where are these men taking you?”

And she tore the door open and seized the old lady by the arm protectively.

“Why, my dear,” said the old lady, looking around the car. “Isn’t this our car?”

“It isn’t, it isn’t!” cried the younger woman brokenly. “Oh, these brutes!”

“Calm yourself, darling,” soothed the old lady. “I must have got in this car by mistake and the two gentlemen were just going-“

The sound of heavy footfalls and loud breathing suddenly burst upon us from the other side.

And there, with two other men with him, one of them a truck driver armed with a large wrench, was the gentleman who had come out of the shop shouting at us.

“Aha,” he breathed furiously. “Caught in the act! Caught red handed! And with a pious old dame in it for camouflage, eh?”

“Come on,” said the truck driver loudly brandishing the wrench. “We’ve sent a call for the cops. Don’t try anything funny.”

“Oh, oooh,” wailed the younger woman the other door.

“Now, now, my dear,” cried the old lady, starting to get out.

“Stay where you are!” roared the truck driver, darting around the back of the car with the wrench.

“Don’t you dare, you brute,” screamed the young woman, taking up a defensive position in front of her poor old mother.

By which time, people were coming from all directions, and it was a mob scene, with us parked in the middle of the street.

Well, it took quite a lot of explaining. We told about the car double-parked outside ours. And how the old lady came along and got into the wrong double-parked car by mistake. And how, when we saw a space offering….

The truck driver said he would escort us back to the shop. And if our car was there, as we said, why, he would let us go.

But he followed behind us all the way, with the wrench.

“You see, Jim,” I explained, as we started back with the steak for Jim’s supper, “how easy a war starts? It is always somebody who thinks he is being wronged.”

“Two of them,” growled Jim.


Editor’s Note:

  1. $2,763 in 1945 would be $47,630 in 2023. ↩︎

Crossed Shovels Rampant

January 16, 1932

This illustration went with a humourous story by Caesar Smith, a regular contributor to the Star Weekly in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The Crime Wave

January 15, 1921

Charity Game

We were introduced with great enthusiasm to the men around the table…

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 15, 1938.

“How are you,” inquired Jimmie Frise, “at raising money?”

“Middling,” I replied. “When I want $100 I always ask the bank manager for $300.”

“I mean,” said Jim, “canvassing. You know: raising funds for a worthy cause.”

“That’s something,” I admitted, “that I have never tried.”

“Well,” said Jim, “there’s some kind of a new service club starting out in the west end here. Sort of like a junior Rotary or Kiwanis club. It is starting a campaign to raise a sort of operating fund for its first year.”

“I’ll give you a dollar1,” I said, seeing it was Jim.

“No, no,” he cried. “It’s not that. The boys in charge of it came to see me last night to ask if you and I would do some canvassing for them.”

“Two dollars,” I offered. “I’ll make it two dollars.”

“I offered them five,” said Jim, “if they would let me out of it. But they kind of high-pressured me. They said you and I were so well known, we’d get them the dough like nobody’s business.”

“Ah,” I admitted, “that was very decent.”

“Yes,” went on Jim, “they said that this new service club is really for the younger men of the west end here, where they are sort of out of the swim, as far as the boys of say 16 to 20 are concerned. We’re seven miles from the University. We’re the same distance from downtown and the museums and main libraries and everything. A service club devoted to youth, they say, would fill a long-felt want.”

“I’ll go five too,” I offered.

“Look,” said Jim. “These fellows told me last night that you and I would get $100 as quick as unknown canvassers would get $10.”

“There might be something in it,” I submitted.

“It’s a very simple job,” pointed out Jim. “All we have to do is go out after supper and work about four short streets. They suggested just these four streets right around here. All well-to-do people. We could probably do 15 houses in an evening, between say 7.30 and 10 o’clock. What do you think?”

“Somehow,” I said, “it doesn’t exactly appeal to me. Somehow, I feel that we belong to the giving kind, not to the getting kind.”

“But look,” said Jim, “what have we ever done for the community? Here we are living our selfish lives, not doing a single uncomfortable thing. All we do is buy our way out of a little work with five bucks.”

“Or two,” I corrected. “Make it two bucks, as a rule.”

“And these fellows were really,” continued Jim, “very kind to say what they did about how easy it would be for us. And it’s true, at that, I suppose.”

“That is the only part of the proposition that appeals to me,” I submitted. “Beyond this: that it might be kind of fun to see inside all these homes around here.”

“Yeah,” said Jim, eyes widening.

Going Out Canvassing

“I’ve often,” I informed him, “had a sort of hankering to see what some of these nice big homes are like around here. I see the people who live in them. I see the outside of their houses. But I wonder what the insides are like? What kind of pictures have they on the walls? Have they got any enlarged photographs of defunct aunts, in walnut frames? What books have they? In what opulence or meanness do all these neighbors of ours dwell, who walk so proudly amongst us?”

“It would be fun,” admitted Jim.

“I tell you,” I offered, “let’s tell your friends that we will try one night’s canvassing for them. Tell them we are pretty busy men, but we’ll give them one night, see?”

“That will be safest,” agreed Jim.

“And we can have one grand evening looking over the domiciles of our neighbors,” I laughed. “Nothing is so revealing as the front room of a man’s home.”

“I’ll call the boys,” said Jim, “and tell them we’ll do a night’s work for them. All they’ve got to do is supply us a list with the names, addresses and business occupations of the householders. That’ll guide us.”

“I want,” I said, “to see the inside of an insurance man’s home.”

So Jimmie got in touch with the committee men of the new venture and they sent him a list of selected prospects in our immediate neighborhood. There were insurance men, managers of factories like ink or shoes, doctors, lawyers. And Jim and I went for a preliminary ramble of the district to look over the outside of the prospects and select the kind of houses we would prefer to see the inside of. We selected out of 50 names a short list of 20 which we could nicely cover in one night’s fast work.

“We won’t stay long,” explained Jim. “The boys impressed that on me. Don’t spend more than 15 minutes. The real trouble with the art of canvassing is the inclination to dawdle. Cover the ground: that’s the secret of success.”

“How much should we try to get?” I asked.

“Well, they told me,” said Jim, “to try for an average of $10 and we’d probably average five. But here and there, if we have any luck at all, we’ll strike perhaps $25 or even $50. We mustn’t forget that most of the neighbors around here know us, and some of them might want to impress us.”

“Especially,” I pointed out, “if we catch them sitting in their shirt sleeves in a living room with a lot of shabby looking furniture…”

“Now you’re talking,” cried Jim, who is only an amateur in the science of psychology.

So, putting on our best hats and the special mufflers we got for Christmas that our wives had put away in a drawer, we sallied forth. It was a lovely night.

“I imagine a lot of people will be out on a night like this,” I suggested.

“We have to take our chances on that,” said Jim.

In a Worthy Cause

The first home we had extra-selected on our list was that of a lawyer, a gentleman whose name is often in the papers. He occupies one of the larger and remoter houses in our neighborhood. It stands back. It has trees in front of it.

“This,” I said, “is going to be imposing. Tall, book-lined walls. Old walnut furniture. A few dim, expensive paintings by old masters on the wall.”

We rang.

We rang again.

Lights glowed within, so we knew somebody was home. But often, in these better-class homes, it takes even the maid a long time to answer the door. It is as if even the maid had more important things to do.

So we rang again, long and steady.

In the distance we heard sounds as of somebody coming. We saw, through the frosted glass of the inner door, a shadow of somebody moving. Then the inner door opened, and there appeared a queer sight. It was the gentleman we sought, true enough, the lawyer, but he was grotesquely attired. He had on some old kind of a dressing gown. he had a towel around his neck, his hair was all tousled, and he was stooped over, as if he were huddling from the cold. He opened the door a crack.

“What is it?” he demanded shortly.

“We’ve dropped in,” I started pleasantly, “in connection with a very worthy cause that has been started in the neighborhood….”

“Good grief, man,” shouted the lawyer thickly. “I only came to the door because I thought you were the doctor. I was up taking a mustard foot bath. I’m nearly dead with a cold, would you mind getting out of this with your…”

And with a terrific slam, he shut the door in our faces.

“Hmmmm,” said Jim.

So we went down the street four doors, rather hurriedly, to the next selected house on our extra-selected list.

“The poor fellow,” I suggested. “Us bringing him down to the door.”

“A bad beginning means a good end,” replied Jim.

We mounted the steps of the next house with confidence.

A girl came dancing to the door.

“Is Mr. Puckle in?” we asked beamingly, as became workers in a worthy cause.

“Just a minute.” said the young girl, uncertainly, and she left us in the vestibule.

The house was loud with music. The radio was going full blast. A swell band was raving and whanging, and somebody on the air said something and the house was filled with laughter.

To Change Their Luck

The girl went inside, and a man in his shirt sleeves came hurriedly out the hall and leaned into the vestibule, as if in flight.

“Mr. Puckle?” said Jim, heartily.

“Yes?” said Mr. Puckle, sharply.

“We’re a couple of neighbors of yours,” began Jim. We wanted to see you for a few minutes on a matter respecting a worthy cause, a new venture in the interests…”

“Not now, not now,” cried Mr. Puckle, his ears laying back as he tried to hear what the radio comedian was saying at the same time. “It’s Thursday night, man. Not to-night.”

“But we only require five minutes,” started Jim.

He made shushing gestures with his hands. “Don’t you understand?” he shouted. “Thursday night. It’s the biggest night on the radio. Nobody should be allowed out on Thursday nights. Imagine, you come here trying to talk to me about some worthy cause… here!”

And he stepped strongly past us, opened the door and waved us out.

Just plain out.

“Well,” breathed Jim as we stood on the steps under the stars.

“I guess he didn’t know who we were,” I suggested.

“Probably he didn’t and perhaps he did,” said Jim. “But so far, we haven’t averaged five bucks.”

“The night’s young,” I encouraged him, as we went down the walk a little way and looked at our list under the street light for the next house.

Well, the next house was another handsome edifice where the maid who answered the door wanted to know our business when we asked for the gentleman. We explained our business.

“I’m sorry,” said the maid. “My instructions are that all requests for aid or money should be referred to the master in business hours.”

“Just take our names in,” I suggested.

She took our names in, and we waited on the veranda.

She returned.

“He says, will you please see him in business hours?”

So we again went down the street and this time we studied the list more closely. To change our luck, we decided to go around a block and start on a new segment of our list.

It was, to the eye, a more appealing home we selected than any of the others. It too had a jolly look, but when we got to the veranda and listened in the window, we could hear no big Thursday night radio rumpus. We rang. In a smoking jacket, a man swung the door wide, in a generous gesture.

“Hello?” he said cheerily.

“We’re calling on you,” said Jimmie, “in connection with a worthy cause connected with this neighborhood. It is a sort of youth service club that some of the people around here…”

“Come on in,” said the gentleman gaily, “and rest your hats.”

We stepped into his parlor.

“Now, look,” said our host, “I’ve got a few of the neighbors in the dining room. We’ve got a little game on. How’d you like to speak your little piece to the whole bunch of us and save time?”

“Swell,” we cried.

And we were led into the dining room, where around the dining room table three gentlemen were sitting in the usual poker attitudes. We were introduced with great enthusiasm, though I didn’t recollect ever having seen any of the neighbors before, and they obviously had never heard of us. Still, it was neighborly.

Jimmie Makes a Speech

Jim made the speech. He explained the purpose of the proposed organization. How it would benefit the whole community insofar as offering some activity and interest to the younger men and older boys. It would teach them public speaking, self-assurance and confidence. Jim really did a beautiful job. All four gentlemen sat back, their cards laid down. and smoked their cigars in that thoughtful way poker players smoke their cigars, in little, puckered-mouth puffs, slowly steaming out.

When Jim concluded, with a rousing request for a few donations on the dotted line, to be followed in due course by a suitably engraved acknowledgment from the president and executive of the new organization, the four gentlemen looked at one another thoughtfully.

“Well, Bill,” said our host to the only one of them in his shirt sleeves, and they tell me those are always the most dangerous poker players, “what say?”

“Personally,” said Bill, slowly and in a deep, cigar-stained voice. “I make it a practice never to give money away. I offer my money on the altar of chance. If a cause is worthy, it generally survives the ordeals of chance.”

“Well put,” cried they all. “Well stated, Bill.”

“My suggestion is,” went on Bill, “that these two gentlemen sit into this game and, if their cause is really worthy, it will probably plaster them with luck and they can take my money off me, and welcome.”

“It’s an idea, gentlemen,” cried our host, offering to take our hats and coats.

“Wait a minute,” said Jim. “I don’t happen to have more than three or four dollars on me.”

“I’ve only got two,” I put in drily. Poker is not one of my good points.

“Why,” said Bill, “you stand to win ten times as much as you could collect out of us.”

“I’m in,” said Jim, starting to take off his coat.

So I sat in too. I sat in to play my own kind of game. I play poker my own way. It is this. I play nothing but jackpots. That is, I ante. And then, if I get one of three hands, a royal flush, a straight flush or a full house, I bet for all I am worth. But unless I get one of those three, I throw my hand in. True, I seldom get such a hand. But in a long evening’s play, all I can lose is my ante. And as the ante was five cents and the game five and ten, naturally, I was able to sit the game out with my two dollars for forty deals. Forty deals I sat and watched that game, and never did I get anything better than three aces, though I got several two pairs.

It took Jim all that time to lose and win and lose his four dollars, back and forward, and back and forward. But this little group of neighbors had a rule that on the stroke of midnight the game ended, no matter what, by finishing out the hand.

And when the stroke of midnight sounded. Jim pushed all his chips, and what do you think he was betting on?

A pair of fives.

Naturally he lost, and for all our night’s canvassing, we had nothing but our key rings and penknives and a couple of buttons and stuff in our pockets.

But the gang broke up with a swell tray-load of chicken sandwiches and coffee, and while none of us had ever heard of one another, and didn’t seem to care, we thanked everybody for a very pleasant evening and went forth into the night.

“So much for canvassing,” said Jimmie.

“So much,” I agreed, and we parted at the corner.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. $1 in 1938 is the equivalent of $20.85 in 2023. ↩︎

Booze-Running Had its Humors and its Tragedies

An old man in the next chair glared out from behind his paper.

When it was Illegal to Import Spirits from Montreal There was an “Underground Railway” in Operation, Which Succeeded Many Times in Beating the Police, But Which Also Enriched the City Treasury by $500.000 – A Few of the Funniest Stories that are Told.

By Gregory Clark, January 10, 1920.

Now that liquor can be imported legally into Ontario1, some of the tales pertaining to the illegal importation of booze may safely be told.

Sober citizens have snapped their fingers, during the past four years, and said:

“Pah! There is more drinking nowadays than ever before! Liquor is coming into this town by the carload. The police don’t even pretend to stop it. Why, I know four places right now that I can phone to, and have a bottle of whiskey delivered here in five minutes.”

We all know this sober citizen. Needless to say, if he had really known of four such miraculous places, he wouldn’t have been wearing such an old hat. He could have sold his information and made a fortune.

No, the majority of such romancers were either highly imaginative extopers2, who, in the dire dessication of modern times, permitted themselves a free fancy; or merely wise guys of that old type which knows of so many wicked and thrilling places, but which seems content to remain in the haunts of ordinary and gullible men.

Nevertheless, that there have been underground routes for liquor, everyone knows. The whiffs of half-forgotten odors that we occasionally got on street cars were not all from doctor’s prescriptions. The hilarious gentleman on the night-car hadn’t been sitting at a sick-bed. And we all know of somebody who has a friend who safely wangled one lone bottle of rye in his suitcase from Montreal.

Taxicab drivers have been accused of being Toronto’s liveliest source of illicit liquor. All you had to do, the wise guy said, was to phone a taxi stand and the bottle was yours.

We asked one of Toronto’s senior police officials about the underground of liquor traffic.

“Did it exist?” we asked.

“It did,” said he.

“Why wasn’t it stopped like the underground drug traffic?”

“Because,” said the official, “in the drug traffic, there are a few crooks engaged in a sly business. They are hard to find, but once found, are easily squashed.

“But when crooks, bootleggers, lawyers, financiers, professors, bankers, clubmen, business men, aldermen, and even a few church officials all engaged whole-heartedly in the jovial game of booze-smuggling, the police, numerically inferior, were up against a big job. Some liquor was bound to leak in. To say that the police have done nothing is hardly exact. Their activities in Toronto alone, in the past three years, have cost the cosmopolitan booze runners over half a million dollars.”

The first and most popular method of smuggling liquor into Ontario was by freight.

The liquor, cunningly disguised as anything from a bale of hay to a human corpse, was addressed to the consignee who ordered it. Any article of merchandise big enough to contain a quart of whiskey was utilized as camouflage by the imaginative smugglers. The police and Inland Revenue Officers kept as close tab on these methods as was possible. But to probe every item of freight entering Ontario would have necessitated the remobilization of the C. E. F3.

One of the cutest ideas was a dozen cases of Scotch shipped as human body. The whiskey was in a beautiful black coffin inside the shipping box, just to allay suspicion. A case where the body was absent but the spirit present.

The second most profitable system, according to record, was by means of motor cars or lorries. To motor to Montreal or neighboring ports, load up at the alleged hoards, and drive home, was said to have been as easy as rolling off a log. But it had its comedies of error, too.

A Toronto military man decided to replenish his cellar. He drove in his touring car to Montreal, loaded up with $300 worth of assorted delicacies and started home. Outside Belleville, his car skidded into a ditch.

Presidently along came a flivver.

“Quit hoggin’ the hull highway!” yelled its two occupants at the Toronto man. And they got out of their flivver to investigate the Toronto man’s predicament.

While giving him the benefit of their advice, they casually noted the square contents of the ditched car, said contents being vainly covered with rugs.

“Excuse me,” said one of the strangers, “but I’m the county constable. Pardon me if I seem to examine your cargo.”

Luck? Merely luck. The Toronto man was soaked $500 and costs at the nearest court of competent jurisdiction, and the assorted delicacies were confiscated.

The third method of importation was by hand. The police have uncovered many schemes for concealing liquor about the body in hollow metal body shields. But the ordinary suitcase, handbag and trunk were the principal means used.

A Toronto traveling-man, finding himself in Montreal with an empty sample trunk, decided to load it up with liquor. He did so. He had it carefully deposited at the station, and hung around till he saw it safe on board. Then he took a seat in the coach nearest the baggage car, and at every stop between Montreal and Toronto, he hung out the window to make sure that his precious trunk was not put off.

Arriving at the Union Station, he trolled unconcernedly into the baggage room to claim his trunk. Picture his horror when he found his trunk set to one side in the “excess baggage” corner.

He figured he was found out, and that the police had set it aside, awaiting to pinch him as soon as he claimed it.

He was sick with disappointment. But he remembered he had a good friend high up in the railway company. Rushing to his office, he telephoned this friend, confessing all.

“And they’ve set my trunk aside,” he said. “You get it out, and I give you a good share of the contents”

“Sure,” said his friend. “Don’t worry. I’ll do what I can.”

And sure enough that afternoon, the precious sample trunk was delivered up to its owner’s home.

Feverishly, he opened it. It was empty!

Not a smell of liquor in it. Who had done this wicked thing: someone on the train, in the station, or was it his friend?

But the joke was on the traveling man. He could not kick4.

That was more than half the humor of the smuggling game. Whatever happened, one couldn’t raise a kick. Being contraband, liquor could be stolen with impunity.

Two friends were on the train coming from Montreal. Each had a bottle of whiskey in his grip5. They were in the smoking car.

“Look here,” whispered one to the other, “why should both of us run the risk of being caught. You put my bottle in with yours and then if you’re caught, I’ll split the fine with you. You’ll find my satchel back behind my seat.

“Shoot,” whispered the other. “That’s the talk. I’ll do it.”

But into the parlor car he went, drew his friend’s handbag from under the seat and quietly and stealthily withdrew the bottle of liquor from it.

An old man opposite suddenly looked out from behind his paper and beheld this action, glared at him but said nothing.

“Caught, sure,” said the traveler who felt the gaze of his fellow-passenger piercing his very vitals. “That fellow’s a detective and I’ll be pinched as soon as I arrive in Toronto.”

But nothing happened.

On arriving at their hotel, the two travelers opened their grips.

“Hello!” said the one, “I thought you put my bottle of whiskey in your grip!”

“So I did,” replied the other, producing two bottles from his bag.

In silent astonishment, the other produced a bottle from his.

“Great Scotch!” cried the first, “I must have opened that detective’s bag by mistake!”

He had. And the other chap, not knowing who the others might be, the was powerless to raise an objection. He happened to be staying at the same hotel, but when the friends hunted him up and returned the bottle he failed to see the joke.

“Whole carloads of whiskey have disappeared in transit,” say the police “If a foxy railway employe discovers a car of whiskey labelled sewing machines, and can sidetrack that car, he is fairly safe in assuming that the owners of the car, fearing they are discovered, will not raise a run holler.”

As the ravens fed Elijah, so did a jocular fate bring a grateful gift to a little village outside Toronto.

This little village is one of those way-stations which closes up at night, even the locals passing it swiftly by. The station agent goes home about nine o’clock in the evening.

One night, not long ago, a freight car was quietly sided at this station, The agent had gone home. All was silent.

About midnight, one of the village worthies, on his way home, passed the station.

Now this man had sort of a sixth sense. He could smell liquor through a cement vault,

He felt his spine tingling and his hair rising as he passed the station.

“Spirits!” he said, softly.

Just to see if his senses had betrayed him, he came over and investigated the lone box car.

Sure enough, it was packed full of cases of whiskey.

Here was a problem.

“This liquor,” argued the villager with himself, “is contraband. Some wicked man is trying to smuggle this liquor into the country. Is he going to get away with it? Well, not with all of it!”

And the villager hastened to the home of another villager. A working party was secretly assembled, and several buggies, democrats and Bain wagons6 came in the night to the lone freight car.

A working party was secretly assembled, and several buggies, democrats and Bain wagons came in the night to the lone freight car.

In the morning, the station agent, on arriving, found a freight car the siding, broken open, and about a quarter full of cases of whiskey. He Immediately notified railway headquarters and that afternoon a number of officials and police appeared on the scene.

The police scoured the village for the looted liquor. Suspect after suspect was visited. At several places, where they were cheerfully shown over the premises, they were given a quiet snort by the jovial owners. In fact, the police were of the opinion that nowhere had they encountered a village the cellars of which were go well stocked. And such fine, amiable people, too! But a hoard of looted liquor was nowhere to be found.

The police finally gave up the search, deciding that in all probability, some professional gang of booze runners from the city had arranged to have the car side-tracked at the village, and had motored out and taken most of their haul, leaving some because of daylight.

And the village concurs in this theory.


Editor’s Notes:

  1. Even though Prohibition was in effect in Ontario, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council had ruled in 1896 that provinces do not have the authority to prohibit the importation of alcohol. Quebec allowed alcohol at the time. This loophole was closed in the 1921 referendum. ↩︎
  2. I’m not sure if this is a typo, I cannot find the definition of this word. ↩︎
  3. The Canadian Expeditionary Force from World War One. ↩︎
  4. Slang for “complain”. ↩︎
  5. Slang for “suitcase”. ↩︎
  6. Democrats and Bain wagons were types of horse drawn carriages. ↩︎

Found – A $2 Bill, Owner Please Call at Post Office

January 7, 1928

$2 in 1928 would be $34.50 in 2023.

Aristocracks

I would forbid any of my tenants to shoot my rabbits

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, January 6, 1934.

“If you had a million dollars,” said Jimmie Frise, as we sat over our cigarettes and dirty dishes in a downtown lunch place, “what would you do with it in times like these?”

“I have a great idea,” I replied. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it this last couple of years.”

“Let’s have it,” said Jim, sitting back.

“If I were a millionaire I would go down around Port Hope or maybe north of Brampton,” I said, “and I would buy 2,000 acres of farmland.”

“Old stuff,” said Jim. “Rich man buys a farm.”

“Wait a minute,” I protested. “You haven’t heard my scheme yet. I’d buy 2,000 acres of fine farmland, with various kinds of soil – clay, clay loam, sandy loam, swamps, pasture, and so forth.”

“Mixed land,” said Jim.

“Yes, and then I’d divide it up into small farms. I would have 100-acre cattle ranches and 10-acre market gardening farms, five-acre chicken ranches and 100-acre mixed farms, for grain and roots, and so forth.”

Real estate racket, eh?” asked Jim.

“On each of these farms,” I went on, “I would build a beautiful modern farm house, of brick, with good barns and buildings, with all modern conveniences like running water and septic tanks and everything. The cattle farm would have modern stables. The small farm suitable for chicken raising would be all chicken runs and houses.”

This has been done before,” said Jim.

“In the midst of this two-thousand-acre estate,” I said, “I would build my own house, the Manor, a large and beautiful house, in the old fashion, but with every convenience, with garages and stables and kennels for all my dogs. From this manor house would radiate drives to all parts of the estate.”

“Ah, you’re going to have a large family?” guessed Jimmie.

“No, sir,” I said. “When I had it all laid out, I would advertise the farms for rent on five-year leases. I would invite the sons of farmers, graduates of the agricultural college and the better class of young farmers who had no land of his own, to come and lease these specialized farms from me. In no time, I would be surrounded by young men, with their wives and little families, working ideal farms provided with every aid to modern agriculture.”

“And what would you do?” Jim inquired.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I would then hire a professor from the agricultural college to act as manager of the estate. He would have a nice house a little way from the Manor. He would do the dividing up of the estate into proper lots of land. He would select the tenants. He would act as adviser to the tenants and to me. Instead of there being an agricultural representative for the county, I would have our own resident adviser, and it would be written right in the leases that the Professor, as we would no doubt call him, would have the right to oversee all operations.”

Lord of the Manor

“Yes, and what would you be doing all this time?” asked Jimmie. “Sleeping? Or gone fishing maybe?”

“I would be the Squire,” I said. “I would be seen in the early mornings, with the dew on the grass, riding a nice quiet little horse about the lanes and roads, amidst the hedges. I would get myself made a J.P.1, so that I could do all the marrying and so forth. I would just visit around all the tenants inspiring them, joking with them, taking a great interest in the children, acting generally as the lord of the manor.”

“And collecting the rents,” said Jim.

“Yes,” I said, “I have figured out that the rents would give me a good return on my million dollars, especially as I would have a clause in the lease that would let me break it if they didn’t come through.”

“You would certainly have a good time,” said Jim.

“Yes,” I cried. “Think of it. I could pack of beagles and I would forbid any of the tenants to shoot my rabbits. Two thousand acres would provide me a lot of rabbit hunting.”

“How about giving me a job?” asked Jimmie.

“If you really knew anything about farming,” I said, “I might make you the manager of the estate. But you were only born and raised on the farm. How about you renting one of my small farms? There’s an idea.”

“One of the five-acre chicken ranches,” said Jimmie.

“Then,” I went on, “think of the social activity around the manor house! The parties! The tenants coming and going; the people from the city, all my city friends, driving out for the week-ends.”

“You would have to turn Tory,” said Jim.

“Yes, I suppose I would have to,” I said. “I can’t imagine even a Liberal, let alone a Radical lord of the manor. One has to be firm about one’s rents, and you can’t do that if you have any funny political ideas. Yes, I’d be a Tory. And I have thought, too, that I would build a church on the estate. We would have our own church and our own minister. It would be nice to have a front family pew, perhaps raised a little, with me and all my children and grandchildren in it.”

“Ah, grandchildren?” said Jimmie.

“Yes,” I said, “I can picture myself growing pleasantly old around that large and happy community, loved and respected, and perhaps, if titles ever come back, I might have a grandson that would be Lord Clark.”

“Ah, Lord Clark!” cried Jimmie, waving his cigarette. “Lord Clark of Brampton or Port Hope!”

“Mind you,” I cried, “an old-fashioned lord. A lord of the old school. Not one of these industrial lords, in shipping or manufacturing.”

To Recover a Lost Happiness

“But you would still collect the rents,” said Jimmie.

“Yes, and I’d have a community general store on the estate,” I said. “The storekeeper would draw a salary, and he would sell everything at cost to the farmers. I might even have a co-operative marketing office, like the U.F.O.2 A fleet of trucks to carry the produce of the farms to the city.”

“Your tenants would never really have to go to town at all,” said Jimmie. “They could just sit there in the peace and quiet of your magnificent estate, and worry about nothing.”

“What would they want go to town for?” I demanded. “You miss the point of the whole scheme. It is to recover a lost happiness. To bring back a former glory. Yes, the professor would manage the co-operative marketing system. There might be even a little profit there. In time, one of my sons might get a good job right on the estate as marketing expert, at a good salary. A salary that would keep him in a condition that befits the son of the manor.”

“And maybe you could bring up one of your sons in the ministry, and he could run the community church?” said Jim.

“Self contained,” I agreed. “That’s the idea.”

“It’s a great idea,” said Jimmie. “I know of no safer way to invest your million. Your family would be fixed for generations to come. How about the sons of your tenants?”

“They could inherit the leases,” I explained.

It was time to go. The waitress was leaning over us piling the dishes on her tray.

We put on our coats and walked out to the street, and I must say, I was surrounded by a kind of pearly-colored glow. I felt benign and serene. I felt kindly toward all mankind, and if any bum had caught me right then, as we stepped out on to the street, I would have given him a shilling or maybe even half a crown, as you might call a fifty-cent piece, along with some sound advice. Yes, sir. I wished I had a walking stick, as I stepped out on to Yonge St.

We walked over to Jimmie’s car that was parked on the kerb, and there was a truck parked ahead of it, with its engine running.

“Drat the truck!” said Jimmie, surveying the way we were trapped by cars behind and in front. It was the usual street scene.

“The man will be out in a moment,” I said. “Don’t be impatient, Jimmie. No gentleman is ever indignant. Or impatient.”

We got into Jimmie’s car and sat there. Three, four, five minutes went by, and still the big truck stood right in front of us, prisoning us, with its body gently jiggling all over with the engine running.

“Look here, Jim,” I said. “There’s an opening across the road. I’ll just get out and drive the truck across to that space.”

“If you like,” said Jimmie.

Back To Reality

I got out and looked about. There was no sign of any truck driver.

I got in the cab of the truck. It was just the same as an ordinary car. I let go the brake, let in the gears, and drew carefully out from the kerb and steered for the open space across the road. But just as I got into the middle of the street, a car slid along and parked itself in the opening I was aiming for.

I drove on slowly. There were no more spaces in the block!

So I drove around the block, carefully, trusting that by the time I got back, there would either be a new opening along the kerb, or else Jimmie would see the situation, move out of his place and let me in and wait for me.

But all down the block there was no open space, and there sat Jimmie, solemnly waiting at his wheel. I drew alongside of him with the truck and stopped.

“Hey!” I cried. “I’ll go around the block once more, and you watch for me coming. And when you see me. draw out of the kerb here and let me drive in. Then wait for me a jiffy.”

“Right-o!” cried Jimmie.

So I drove around the block once more. I ran into a few delays. There was a traffic jam on a side street. And I was held up at all three corners of the block.

And then I got back on to Yonge St, and started slowly for Jim, watching ahead to see if he saw me coming. Jimmie is forgetful.

But there he was, turned in the driver’s seat and watching me approach. I slowed.

Suddenly, I saw a figure running beside me.

He was big and hairy, he had on overalls, his arms were bare and dirty, and he had the most terrible expression I have seen on a human face since the last of the great war cartoons.

“Aaarrrrnnnnnhh!” he snarled, galloping alongside the truck.

I surmised he was the truck driver.

“Just a minute, my good man!” I cried down to him, trying to handle the brakes, gears and steering wheel and also to keep an eye on traffic, though both my eyes were strongly attracted down to this man snarling below me on the pavement.

“Gearrrratttt!” roared the big brute. And while I clung helpless to the big steering wheel, he leaped on the step and laid hold of my shoulder.

“Gearrrratttt!” roared the big brute as he leaped on the running board

He chucked me out over his shoulder as if I were a pillow. As I felt myself passing over his head, I sensed him sliding as if in masterful hands, gain speed and leap down the street.

At that moment, I landed. I landed in slush and mud and cigarette butts and old chewing gum.

Independence Highly Prized

I landed right in front of Jim’s car. I slid quite a piece, gathering slush as I slid. I lay still.

Jimmie was out and beside me in an instant. I felt him wiping my face off with his handkerchief.

“Ah,” cried Jimmie, “as I live! If it isn’t Lord Clark of Port Hope!”

“Jimmie,” I spluttered, “get me out of this!”

He assisted me to my feet. He hastened me into his car. Only a few of the common people had gathered around to see me. “Take me somewhere,” I cried, as we drove off. “Take me to a cleaner’s and presser’s or something.”

“How about a Turkish bath, milord?” asked Jimmie.

“Did you ever see anything so brutal?” I demanded, holding my hands in the air, because I was all gooey. “That truck driver might have known by my appearance that I was not a car thief!”

“Well, if you were a truck driver,” said Jimmie, “and you came out and saw your truck vanished, and then all of a sudden saw your truck driving along the street with a stranger at the wheel, what would you do?”

“Throw him to the street!” I said hotly. “I never saw such outrageous conduct!”

“Ah, times have changed,” said Jimmie. “In the old feudal days, in the days of the manor house, for example, truck drivers knew their place and they knew the lord of the manor when they saw him. Now in the old days, that truck driver would merely have tipped his cap to you. And curtseyed!”

“Jimmie!” I said.

“But you see,” explained Jimmie, “times have so changed. There is a great independence abroad in the world. Men want that independence even more than they want comfort and security.”

“It was outrageous,” I said.

“Sure,” said Jimmie, “but no matter how honest your intentions, you can’t monkey with a truck driver’s truck nowadays. That big guy would rather drive a truck and have the right to throw a benign old squire like you in the mud, than be your flunkey and live on the fat of the land.”

“If I had a million dollars,” I said, “do you know what I would do with it?”

“What?” said Jim.

“I’d buy a fleet of trucks, and by George, I would teach those truck drivers manners!”

“Ah, well,” said Jim, “the main thing is you haven’t the million dollars.”

March 23, 1940

Editor’s Notes:

This story was repeated on March 23, 1940 as “Times Have Changed”.

  1. Justice of the Peace. ↩︎
  2. United Farmers of Ontario. This party formed the Ontario government from 1919-1923. By the time of this article, they were in decline and dissolved by 1944. ↩︎

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